Lighthouse Prison Ministry Offers Hope
Joe Spears left the corporate world for a Bible and a bandana. He felt God calling him to shine the love of Christ into Oklahoma’s darkest corners; in return, he receives energy and passion from his prison ministry.
Joe and his wife, Kayla, began Lighthouse Ministries in 2002. Although he lives in Edmond, he works in five prison facilities, interacting with more than 300 men a week.
One prison he visits is the Diamondback Correction Facility in Watonga. The first time Joe gave his testimony in the prison, he felt at home, he said. Many people would have been afraid, but he knew this was what he was called to do.
Inmates trust Joe because he talks to them individually and develops a relationship with them. “Many men play games with church or God, but when it clicks, you can see it in their eyes,” he said.
Joe is one of the youngest people in prison ministry in the state. He rides to the prison on his ’96 Harley Davidson, walks into the prisons with black jeans, leather coat and Harley boots and relates on their level. He plays cards and dominoes with them and eats with them.
“I love these young men. I am dead-level honest with them, but that is what they want. They want hope,” he said.
Among the things Joe teaches are authentic living courses, including “Authentic Relationships.” He follows this up with courses taught by Dr. Robert Lewis, such as “Quest for Authentic Manhood.” This teaches the biblical definition of what it means to be a man and the value of relationships, he said. The course teaches the men to reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously and look to God for their reward.
One reason his ministry is successful is that the prison staff respects him, Joe said. Once a year, he throws a staff appreciation cookout at each facility to tell them thank you. He couldn’t do his work without the cooperation of the prison guards and other staff, he said.
Joe collaborates with Prison Fellowship. At Christmas, Lighthouse Ministries helped about 2,300 Angel Tree children who had an incarcerated parent.
A new ministry recently began with some of the 400 Mexican inmates in Watonga. With the help of a translator, Joe found that the men were responsive to the gospel of Jesus.
One of Joe’s visions is to have a facility for men leaving prison. He wants to help give them a job, education and get back into society. Some men are angry when they go to prison and angrier when they get out, he said. But some become godly men while incarcerated. Prison ministry is one area of society that bears much fruit, he said. Mentors from local churches are needed to start establishing relationships with the men before they get out.
Scott, for example, is up for parole. He is 33 years old and has been incarcerated since he was 15, Joe said. He became a born-again believer in prison and leads praise and worship in the Holdenville prison. When he leaves, he will be given $50 and a bus ticket.
Where does Joe Spears get his high energy and passion? “I serve a God of second chances,” he said. “I know because he’s given me a second chance. I was at the bottom of life after making poor choices. I remember crying out Psalms 51. I prayed ‘Forgive me and I’ll teach others.’ I’m living proof that God cares.”
Joe’s wife, Kayla, works in nursing homes, leading a therapy dog, “Petra,” from room to room. Stroke patients especially respond when they feed and pet Petra. This gives Kayla an opportunity to share Christ’s love to the patients. Joe and Kayla have two young children, Abigail and Joshua.
Lighthouse Ministries exists through financial support by “Lighthouse Keepers.” The goal in 2006 is to have 100 or more “keepers” to help keep the light shining in Oklahoma’s dark corners, Joe said. The ministry also needs male and female mentors who care about others, especially those imprisoned in Oklahoma.
For more information, contact Joe at the Lighthouse Ministries, PO Box 8321, Edmond, OK, 73083 or e-mail him at [email protected]